Note to readers – I am starting a series titled, “Single Take.” These sketches will be shorter than my usual blog posts. I will be alternating between the short and the longer write-ups just as an experiment. I would welcome any feedback and constructive criticism. Happy reading!
I finally understood what religious people experienced when they entered the premises of a temple. Thanks to the efforts of journalist S Shiva Kumar, I was allowed inside Ilayaraja’s studio in Chennai. As I stood outside the building, only a glass door separated me and him. I saw him. More accurately, “I saw HIM.” The security guard let me know that I should stand next to him until HE would wave at him. Much to my amusement, he said, “Why don’t you move to my left so that you are not in Aiyya’s line of sight? Once Aiyya waves to me, I shall let you in.” I said to myself, “Ram, no, don’t try to respond with some lame, ‘witty’ remark. You are going to soon be let inside ILAYARAJA's studio. Just follow instructions to the letter.” So, I did. While I waited, I asked the guard for any tips he could offer. Among other things, one piece of instruction stood out – “Keep your volume down.” If he had only listened to the beats of my heart, he would have been scurrying to buy cotton balls for even the drummers in the studio.
The King must have waved to his guard. For the latter told me, “Aiyya koopadraru. Ulla poanga.” As I entered the studio, the maestro gave me a hint of a smile and gestured me to sit down. As I took my seat, the first words out of my mouth were, “I don’t have any questions for you, Sir.” In response to the quizzical look, I continued, “Sir, I have grown up on your music. Your music has meant the world to me. And I wanted to use this opportunity to see you in person and thank you for what you have given me.” I picked two of his songs that have touched the innermost recesses of my soul – “Ellorum Sollum Paatu” and “Nalam Vaazha” from Marupadiyum. And I emphasized that these two songs, among countless others, have touched me, lifted me, inspired me. I told him that there was something inexplicable about his music that set it apart from anything else that reaches my ears. A smile here and a word there were what he offered in return to my monologue that was really a thanksgiving speech.
After a few minutes, I requested him for an autograph and a photograph. He agreed to both. Oh, the security guard had given me instructions for that too. I was supposed to come outside and mime the clicking of a camera. And he would then ask the person sitting next to him to go inside and take a picture. (Why I couldn’t ask the other person myself is a thought that crossed my mind. But I was wise enough to not argue!) Did I follow those instructions? You bet. To the letter. As I thanked HIM and walked outside, I could understand how the pious folks in my circle would beam with happiness after exiting a temple. The ‘darshan’ would have given them peace and tranquility. It would have given them the cathartic reassurance that a superpower exists, to give them the strength to lead their lives, inclusive of its highs, lows and everything in between. The fanatics would even exclaim, "Don't you question the existence of God." Well, 35 days have passed since my visit. The impact still lingers. And guess what, I didn't question at all!